Experiences of refugees, children and military personnel during war essay

Twentieth century will be remembered forever for the horrors of two world wars, genocides and enormous civil conflicts, which distinguished by brutality and horrors. The century which is characterized by progress, democratization trends and anti colonial movement will be also remembered by the most bloody and inhumane methods of warfare, which caused millions casualties of civilians. The trend of number of civilians who were killed during warfare is growing and had much exceeded the number of military men killed during recent conflicts: “In World War I, civilian casualties were under 10 percent of the total; in World War II, they had risen to nearly 50 percent. The evolution continued through the next 50 years, to the point that now the overwhelming majority of those killed in conflicts are civilians, not soldiers. For example, of all the persons killed in African conflicts in the late 20th century, 92 percent were civilians. Similar figures hold true for the wars in the Balkans.4 Civilians once had no place on the battlefield; now the battlefield is almost incomplete without them.”[1] The main problem of modern conflicts is that their legacy remains veiled slowly destroying people’s lives: refugees, street children, psychological traumas of both combatants and civilians, and inability to adapt to the realities of peaceful time.

Another very important aspect is that these conflicts are not fought by professional government soldiers, but mostly by volunteered insurgents who do not keep to traditional moral norms of warfare. Wars of modern time, which have ethnic and political character, lead to future civil instability, which in most cases results in failure of establishing properly functioning institutions of civil society and growth of corruption. So it appears more difficult to defeat hidden effects of war, especially in undeveloped countries.

The problem of civil conflicts’ legacy became global burning problem in the late 1980’s-1990’s after the collapse of Soviet Union and pro-Soviet block in Africa and Asia. The balance, which was achieved by decades of confrontations and policies of restraining, was destroyed, as the “cold war” was over and third world countries of Africa and Asia were left by both Soviets and the USA. For millions of people life turned into eternal war, into war for the sake of war. Second generation of Afghanistan population doesn’t know what it means to live in peace; there are thousands of children in Chechnya and Dagestan who don’t know what it means to leave without weapon and fear of being killed. It is also common for Kosovo and hot spots of Africa. Wars not only bring sufferings, cause human casualties, destroy social infrastructure, but they also leave a lot of unsolved humanitarian problems, which are supplemented by difficult psychological state of people who survive. Historically, every war has time margins, but the time needed for mental and moral relief and recovery of those who suffered is never estimated, as its war affects may influence psychics of several generations of those who survive.

The nature of modern conflicts, which mostly start on the soil of ethnic problems, is changing every day, involving changes in attitudes of combatants towards the war. In the twentieth century in most of third world countries, which experienced prolonged conflicts as well as among soldiers of special US and NATO troops the attitude towards their occupation had evoluted from professional responsibilities (to protect their homeland) into a way of life, turning them into “soldiers of fortune”, mercantile people who fight and kill for money, people who are ready to support anyone who is able to pay. For most of them warfare turned into a way of life as they are not able to find place for themselves in civil life. The problem of these people is that due to psychological trauma, which they get on war seeing and participating in violence, they are not able to adapt to conditions of peaceful life. It’s typical for most of them to experience prolonged melancholy, depression, unexplained neurosis and aggression. Today’s statistics in the USA shows that the number of suicides among veterans of Vietnam and Gulf wars is higher than among military men who did not participate in violence, those former combatants are more likely to commit crimes and result home violence.

Another important problem which is typical for a number of former combatants is addiction to drugs, as quite often drugs are widely used during war times in order to relief stress, improve concentration and get rid of fear of death, common for every military men.

For civilians war is more terrible today than it was fifty or hundred years ago, as modern conflicts differ by lack of morals and principles. As during war times civilians who live on the territories where conflicts take place interact with fighting parts, the decline of morality and civil standards is observed vividly. Civilians who suffered wars or prolonged local conflicts for a long time are not able to live under the conditions of peaceful time, to obey constitution and laws, to live in society of civilians. Today for example in some languages of nations who are involved in prolonged conflicts people have forgotten the meaning of word “happiness”, as it’s rarely used in their speech.

Such people seldom believe in ability of central government to manage and control situation in the country, even after peace is established. Such fears and mistrust result in corruption, which is often practiced for several generations, paralyzing establishment of effective civil institutions. In a number of countries where the war is over (Kosovo, Chechnya, Southeast Asian states, Afghanistan and others) the real control over civilians is in the hands of organized crime paramilitary groups, which even have influence on central governments and manipulate them.

Another legacy of civil conflicts is growth of nationalism among civilians to neighboring ethnicities, who participated in conflicts. This radical nationalism is preserved in future generations and is reveal by absence of any ethnic or religious tolerance towards foreigners.

On the hand with suffering of civilians, wars create the problem of refugees who are often “stateless” in the states where they have found shelter. These people have no rights in the new state, as they don’t have passport and cannot be regarded as citizens or even residents of the country they live in: they cannot work or study legally, they even cannot marry citizens of country they live in. The problem of refugees in Northern Caucasus, former Yugoslavia, Central Africa and Indochina is one of the most burning humanitarian problems in these regions, as thousands of people without any civil rights and funds to support themselves have a high potential to result social unrest. In fact, the number of crimes committed by refugees is very high due to the fact they are deprived of any funds to support their living and support their families. The situation of refugees is even more awful and hopeless than situation of civilians who decided not to leave their homes, as they don’t have any funds to support themselves and are not often protected by the state, where they found shelter. This situation is typical for all refugee camps situated in central Africa, Southeast Asia and Afghani refugee camps in Pakistan.

The experiences of children who survived wars and local conflicts are the most tragic compared to the experiences of grown-ups, as children are the least protected part of the society, especially of that society in which legislative norms and laws don’t function. Because there are no protection program to rescue children from the zones of continuing wars, children are left alone to survive under conditions of war. The most tragic reality of modern conflicts and wars is that children are often recruited into army and serve as regular soldiers. Involvement of children into permanent military regiments is typical for all modern civil conflicts and local wars. Recent statistics of UN gives horrible data about child exploitation in military regiments:

Twenty-three percent of the armed organizations in the world (84 out of 366 total) use children age 15 and under in combatant roles. Eighteen percent of the total (64 of 366) use children 12 and under.5 While the exact average age of the entire set of child soldiers around the world is not known, there are clues. For example, in one survey taken of child soldiers in Asia, the average age of recruitment was 13. However, as many as 34 percent were taken in under the age of 12.6 In a separate study in Africa, 60 percent were 14 and under.7 Another study in Uganda found the average age to be 12.9.8 Indeed, many child soldiers are recruited so young that they do not even know how old they are. As one boy from Sierra Leone, thought to have been 7 or 8 when he was taken, tells, “We just fought. We didn’t know our age.”

Understandably, those children are forced to join military regiments by their community leaders or are simply sent in training camps after being kidnapped from school or from streets. Homeless children are the most vulnerable to be kidnapped as they are not protected. In fact, most of researches note, that experiences of children, who were recruited in combatant regiments during warfare are similar to the experiences of combatants, with the only difference that their psychics was shocked at a younger age. When the war is over, these individuals are not able to find a place for themselves in peaceful world, they are less likely to return to schools as school programs are not organized in such a way in order them to catch up with their peers. Most of them also find that it’s very difficult to study after years of being out of school. In many cases these children join para-military criminal groups, as their chances to stay in army when war is over are very small, when even grown-ups are dismissed

Making a conclusion, I would like to say that psychological affects of war experiences for all people are pretty much the same: both civilians and military men receive deep psychological trauma during war time, as grief and sufferings can not pass without evoking emotions. Even after an open war ends, inner war and moral sufferings continue to destroy personality who had survived conflicts. The affects of psychological shock received are hidden and dissolved but they are more continuous than open conflicts are. Rehabilitation of these people is a very long process and it would be inaccurate to state that they can fully recover from the horrors experienced. The past of the global community should be not only taking measures to stop and prevent conflicts, but also to assist in restoration of peaceful life and providing essential financial and professional psychological help to everyone who needs it.

[1] Singer, W.The New Faces of War


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